The same technology advancements that allowed for hyper-personalized service in sectors from banking to food delivery were already in the process of remaking health-care access and delivery. And then the coronavirus pandemic hit, quickly accelerating the acceptance of digital health care in Canada.

Surveys have shown 60 per cent of health-care visits are now taking place virtually, compared to just 20 per cent pre-pandemic. A Canadian Health Infoway survey in the summer of 2020 found 65 per cent of Canadians are now more likely to choose virtual care over in-person visits for simple or routine health advice and almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of those respondents said it was because the pandemic showed them virtual care can be just as effective.

Read: One year later: How the pandemic sped up the shift to virtual mental-health care

“When we talk about delivering real value, the data is telling us that . . . digital health is here to stay,” said Colleen Adams, manager of health and digital product solutions at Medavie Blue Cross, during Benefits Canada’s 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference in late April. “Incorporating access to these services within benefits plans will be key to enabling true digital health navigation into supporting a healthy, productive and engaged employee population.”

That’s why Medavie created Connected Care, a digital health platform available on the insurer’s member services site and mobile app, in the fall of 2019. The platform offers a variety of health solutions through partner organizations, from telehealth to pharmacogenetic testing to digital therapy.

It combines all services that plan members are able to access through their benefits plan or health-care spending account, as well as preferred pricing for services that would involve out-of-pocket expenses for members. It’s available to all Medavie plan members at no cost to plan sponsors and can be accessed in both English and French.

The goal of Connected Care is to provide “faster, easier access to high-quality health care in a cost-effective way for plan sponsors and plan members,” said Adams.

Read: 2021 Group Benefits Providers Report: Will the rising tide of virtual health-care offerings lift all boats?

Plan members have direct online access to a physician through telehealth provider Maple, as well as mental-health solutions including internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy and live virtual counselling. Adams noted the majority of Medavie members who’ve used the insurer’s digital therapy providers have come through the app.

Also among Connected Care’s services is access to and preferred pricing for a platform of approved physiotherapists, which has specialized software to help with treatment and online exercise libraries to help address the impact on plan members of not being able to see physiotherapists in-person during the pandemic. 

To ensure plan members get the most out of the experience, Medavie provides education to help them understand what’s offered and how it fits within their plan. The insurer also wants to use the platform to encourage plan members to be more proactive in managing their health and well-being.

“As people become more comfortable logging into digital health platforms like Connected Care to consult a doctor, get physio treatments, order pharmacogenetics testing or receive counselling, we’ll continue to ask ourselves how we can connect our members with other health practitioners, services and solutions from the comfort and privacy of their homes.

As COVID-19 has taught us, there may be things on the health-care horizon that we can’t fully anticipate.”

Read more articles from the 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference.